Admission Tips from a UPenn Freshman: The Essay

October 31, 2013

A lot of people applying to your dream school have strong GPAs, meaningful extracurriculars, and solid recommendations. So much of the college application is based on numbers and achievements and very concrete measurements, and there is nothing wrong with this. Colleges, first and foremost, want an intelligent, motivated, hard-working class. However, they are also looking for individuals who are interesting and unique. So, while it was your job to keep up your grades and be involved In activities for the last four years, now you have a totally different task: channeling your personality through writing.

Ok, I know there are a bunch of different potential essay topics, but there are certain all-encompassing ideas that you should remember no matter what you write about. 

1) Keep it Personal

This might sound simple, but applicants normally have a hard time relating stories and achievements to themselves. Often, you will find that the applicant has written a gorgeous essay detailing a life-changing experience or a project they completed, but it will tell you nothing about the person. You need to make an effort to explain the impact of situations on yourself. For example, clearly explain the lessons you learned, how it has changed you, and how you will use this experience in the future and work off that. Your goal is to clearly illustrate who you are as a person.

2) Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Often, I’d be editing some of my friends’ essays and notice that they do not give themselves nearly enough credit for their spectacular achievements. When I would ask them about this, they would explain that they did not want to come off as arrogant and instead took the humble approach. While humility is an important trait to have, your college essay is not the place for it. On the contrary, you should err on the side of “cockiness”. Remember, you are writing to admissions officers, so you must detail everything. In the next part of this series, I will give interview tips where it is important to not come off as an undesirably arrogant person, but go crazy in your essays!

For a list of some more solid tips, check out this USNews article.

I’ll see you all next week!

And most importantly, good luck in all your applications!

P.S: Use the referral code SEBI when you sign up for AdmitSee.com and get $10 credit!



Browse Successful Application Files

alm25
UT Austin ‘19


Accepted to UC Berkeley, USC, UMich, Illinois, UT Austin, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCSD, UCSB, U of Minnesota, Arizona, WVU, Cal Poly, San Jose State

I'm from the SF Bay Area, but I'm betraying my roots by attending The University of Texas at Austin as a chemical engineering major. I like music, science and eating!
ryanbada
UC Berkeley ‘24


Accepted to UC Berkeley, UCSD, UC Irvine, UCSB, UCSC, CSULB, San Jose State, SDSU, Cal Poly, San Diego, U San Fran, Emerson

A first-generation student expected to attend UC Berkeley planning to major in Media Studies and minor in Journalism and Conservation and Resource Studies.
Isandres2
Williams ‘19


Accepted to Utah, Colorado, Colby, Williams, SMCVT

Hi! I go by Izi and I am a current student at Williams College Class of 2019. I hope to be a biology or sociology major with a neuroscience concentration. I am on the NCAA Division 1 alpine ski team here.
bluedevil25
Duke ‘21


Accepted to Duke, Binghamton

Aristotle said, "A friend to all is a friend to none." I disagree.

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